Real business story

Extend performance management to contractors to get the best results

It’s important every employee understands what’s expected of them. That means having a framework for reviewing staff and providing feedback that encourages your workforce.
Liam White, Dr Will's

Dr Will's co-founder Liam White put new measures in place to properly integrate freelancers and contractors

For performance management to be effective, everybody needs to be working within that framework. Managers should have the same goal setting processes – and there’s an opportunity to involve team members that aren’t permanent employees too.

Taking a more integrated approach to managing consultants and contractors improves performance. Start with communication.

Creating bridges between different types of employees

The Dr Will's team is complemented by specialist consultants who help with sales and marketing on a long-term basis.

Co-founder Liam White said the model works well, but they had to implement new processes to make sure external team members were properly integrated.

“The first thing that’s crucial is constant communication and making sure the consultant can communicate with your whole team, rather than one point of contact,” said Liam.

Dr Will’s consultants and part-timers are included in fortnightly company-wide meetings and team meetings.

Liam added they also share company information, such as fundraising and challenges they’re facing, with consultants in a proactive way. This encourages buy-in and provides context that makes it easier if things don’t go to plan or priorities change.

“The first thing that’s crucial is constant communication and making sure the consultant can communicate with your whole team, rather than one point of contact.”

Liam White, co-founder, Dr Will's

Get contractors involved in OKRs

Most contractors have performance expectations. But because of the nature of the engagement, it’s often handled directly with the consultant, rather than through the company’s normal process.

Dr Will’s has team-wide Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that everyone is expected to contribute to.

“The performance management process for consultants is not that dissimilar [to regular employees]. The overriding theme is we try and run it like a normal team.

“We’re looking for consultants that have ten to 20 years of experience. They don’t need micro goals but we have OKRs for the company and teams,” said Liam.

Don’t be afraid to give tough feedback to high performers

Don’t hold back on giving feedback to contractors, even if those conversations can be daunting.

Dr Will’s has developed a small team of high performers and those individuals are good at taking feedback; people who are leaders in their disciplines want to be challenged and pushed forward.

It helps to think about how that feedback is framed. Liam stressed the importance of thinking about the issue from the employee or contractor’s perspective; has the issue occurred because you haven’t given enough guidance?

“Open the conversation and do that radical candour, so you’re not in this world where you just praise each other. It’s hard at the beginning, but the quicker you get into it the easier it is,” advised Liam.

Improve how you onboard freelance and contract workers

Use our action plan to direct your next steps
  • website:
  • location: North East (England)
  • business size: 10-49 People
  • business type: Manufacturing

Top three takeaways

Make sure every team member – including part-timers and consultants – is included in company discussions and announcements

Don’t limit conversations with consultants to a single point of contact

Don’t hesitate to give difficult feedback – even if you’re dreading it. High performers want to learn and issues ferment if you leave them too long